The Karnataka government on Tuesday announced that it is considering opening government and private schools from July and invited suggestions from both schools and parents. As the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country, both schools and parents are opposed to reopening in July.
The Association of Karnataka Unaided Schools pointed out that opening schools in the month of July would be too risky and unsafe as many schools across the state are not prepared to handle the situation.
No SOPs issued for reopening of schools
Without any concrete guidelines from the government, many schools are clueless about protocols and the infrastructure required to conduct classes.
â€śWe are completely unprepared to reopen in July. We donâ€™t know what safety protocols to follow after reopening. Without issuing any guidelines, or a set of rules or at least a framework outlining the standard operating procedure for schools, how do they expect schools to prepare?â€ť Shashi Kumar, President of the The Association of Karnataka Unaided Schools told TNM.
He further stated that the government must issue clarity regarding payment of fees, the safety measures to be taken. â€śThere is a big dispute though this is a welcome move. Holding classes in shifts is very impractical and it would be a complete mess. We have been asking the government to hold talks with stakeholders for a long time and now they are giving only one month for us to discuss and put these systems in place. We need to know methods for sanitising schools, whether we must install safety tunnels etc,â€ť he added.
Many parents say that even if schools reopen in July, they would not be willing to send their children. Several parents, who have even written on Education Minister Suresh Kumarâ€™s Facebook page said that they fear this is the wrong time to reopen as the number of cases in Karnataka are increasing steadily. They also voiced concerns about whether teachers would be able to ensure that the children would maintain physical distance.
â€śChildren do not listen. They will be excited to see their friends, especially those in lower classes like those children in primary and middle school. My son is in Class 3 and it is true that kids his age cannot be controlled when they are among friends. I would rather my son take the year off and start again the next year instead of putting his health at risk,â€ť said Aruna Mohan, whose son studies in St Josephâ€™s Boysâ€™ High School.
Several parents also voiced concerns about the fear of infection as 90% of cases in Karnataka are of those who are asymptomatic. â€śUsing a thermometer will not be enough. Whoâ€™s to know whether an asymptomatic carrier is there? And reopening schools when the cases are peaking is not a good idea,â€ť said Pramod Prabhakar, father of a Class 7 student from Vibgyor High in Horamavu.
Online classes and logistical issues
Aruna maintains that in addition to logistical issues including bad internet connectivity, loss of video and blurred voices, online classes are taking a huge toll on not just students but parents as well.
â€śWhen my son started online classes yesterday (Tuesday), all the kids were talking to each other, the poor teacher had to keep shouting. Most of the time, the audio and video is bad. It will be okay to start classes for high school students, who have the ability to focus. A 6-year-old or a 7-year-old does not have that attention span,â€ť she added.
Pramod said that both him and his wife are working from home and using their laptops. The burden of online classes includes buying new gadgets for each child so they can continue online classes. â€śShould we work or let our children attend classes? Assignments have to be sent online. When so many people are losing jobs and suffering pay cuts, how can we invest in this? What about children from economically weaker sections? How will they cope? This is highly impractical. School may start in late August or September for high school and much later for primary as the syllabus is not that hard,â€ť Pramod added.
Parents say that schools are not allowing children to attend online classes if they have not paid the fees. This, despite the Karnataka governmentâ€™s advisory asking schools to not collect fees until the reopening date is announced.
â€śWhen my sonâ€™s classmates are studying he canâ€™t and we did only what the government asked us to do? How can schools do this? Until now the government has not asked any stakeholders what they think. Now, they are giving us a one month deadline. How is this fair?â€ť Soumya, a mother of a class 4 student from Vibgyor High said.